x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A whole new ballgame for Red Bull duo of Vettel and Webber

Any team or driver hoping complacency has crept into Sebastian Vettel's vocabulary will be disappointed. The two-time Formula One champion is hoping to make it three in a row in 2012.

Sebastian Vettel tries his hand at beach cricket on St Kilda Beach, with teammate Mark Webber playing wicketkeeper in a bit of fun on Wednesday before their real jobs begin on Friday for the Grand Prix of Australia.
Sebastian Vettel tries his hand at beach cricket on St Kilda Beach, with teammate Mark Webber playing wicketkeeper in a bit of fun on Wednesday before their real jobs begin on Friday for the Grand Prix of Australia.

MELBOURNE // Boundless success has its drawbacks, as Sebastian Vettel can attest.

The German's domination of Formula One's world championship last year has left him with an interior design issue: the trophy cabinet he planned for his living room is too small.

That shelf has been shelved.

Back to the drawing board.

The Red Bull Racing driver, who it is easy to forget is only 24 years old, collected 18 trophies from 20 races last year and finished the season by being presented the Drivers' Championship vase at the FIA gala dinner in India. Where does he display the most coveted trophy in motorsports?

"On the middle of my kitchen table," he said Wednesday, apologetically.

"Not with the cornflakes. I'm German. It has to be precise. You can't mix the cornflakes with the world championship trophy."

Yet if Vettel's rivals expect him to take his foot off the accelerator in the hope of avoiding cluttering his home any further, they need not bother. The two-time world champion has no such intentions; he is as determined as ever to continue adding to his growing collection of silverware.

"Winning the first world championship was a great relief in many ways because you have proven to yourself that you can do it," said Vettel, who became the sport's youngest world champion when he won the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2010.

"But that doesn't mean you don't care what happens next. It is the opposite: you know it all starts again, everyone starts from zero and you want to win it again. So, I have never had to ask myself the question, 'Do I want this again' or 'Why am I here?'

"Nothing has changed. I am still hungry, and I am still getting upset when there is someone else beating me."

He was beaten so rarely last year that he secured the championship with four races remaining. This year he hopes to do the same again, and if he does he will become only the third driver to win three successive titles. His quest begins this weekend at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, but with pre-season testing providing little clues as to the lay of the land, he is prepared for anything.

"It would be completely immature to believe that nothing ever goes wrong," Vettel said. "From what I have seen so far, and what I have had to go through so far, I should be smart enough to know that it doesn't always go your way. You never know what is going to happen, but it would be pretty boring if we did."

Mark Webber, Vettel's Australian teammate, is the man of the moment this week ahead of Friday's opening practice session at Albert Park. The 35 year old closed the 2011 season with a victory at Interlagos and he would enjoy nothing more than winning in front of his compatriots on Sunday.

With six world champions on the grid this year, the challenge facing Webber is tougher than ever, yet for a man who so often appears impassive, his excitement Wednesday was unmistakable.

During a promotional event on St Kilda beach, Webber and Vettel both looked relaxed, enjoying a spot of cricket in the sand, despite being swarmed by fans, media and bewildered beachgoers.

"We have a sensational season ahead of us," Webber said.

"There is no guarantee, but I feel there are going to be some really good moments this year. There will be some headwinds - that is normal - and over a long season things can happen to the drivers where we have to deal with adversity here and there, but I am excited about the whole season and looking forward to getting some fantastic results."

Webber knows actions speak louder than words though: he has never finished higher than fifth in his home race.

"I can say awesome things we are going to do, but we have to actually go and do it," he said. "They have to get done."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae